So, how about that RoP:Magic?

Finally got around to reading Realms of Power: Magic, and decided to share some thoughts on it.

I found the best feature of the work to be the tiny nuggets of Mythic flavor connected to the various ideas. I really liked how you can Enrich an Object of Virtue (or Beast of Virtue and so on) to get Virtues, but at the cost of Warping and with zero Penetration so that it isn't really increasing the magi's power level but is providing lots of flavor and hedge-magic uses. Likewise the small effects of Aligned Auras were very nice. These tiny things really do, I feel, bring out the Mythic in Mythic Europe.

I also liked many of the individual entries (magical creatures and so on). Just going from memory, the dragon-wannabe drake, the magical city of birds, the lore on primordial giants, lost children - all made an impression. Lots of the other entries were very nice too, like the vis sources.

I found the idea of tethers mediocre. It was nice to give an idea on what a powerful aura would involve, but not so nice in being overly mechanical. Likewise the idea of the aura changing was good, but the implementation somewhat mechanical - I found myself much more inspired by the organic nature of the Forest Spirit's dissolution and growth in Guardians of the Forest. I certainly didn't like the spell guidelines for manipulating auras, which made things too easy for magi (I'd just prefer they weren't there, at least not without a Breakthrough).

I generally disliked the mechanics, really. I didn't run the system for making magical characters through anything, but it left the impression of being directed towards making magical player-characters, instead of making magical non-player characters. Seemed too balanced and mechanical, and not story and balance-as-opponent/ally oriented, to serve the storyguide well. I think that's a miss - the system should be designed to support the storyguide principally, with specific pathways and rules (like Ascendancy to the Hall of Heroes) for player characters.

Speaking of the connection to other works, I found it lacking. I don't think the book addressed, at all, how its rules relate to the various other rules provided for Immortal magi in TMRE. It mentioned Bjornaer Great Beasts, but not how their mechanics for Bjornaer initiates relate to those in Final Twilight - are they Transformed Animals? Is their progression now cut off from that of living Bjornaer in HoHMC? I think a small insert on Great Beasts and what is it they do (and where) could have been a very nice addition to RoPM.

I also disliked the power-boost. I didn't like that the main places in the Magic Realm had an aura of 10, yet the effective aura in a boundary was as high as 30. (I also didn't like the fact that the Twilight Void's aura wasn't mention - I think treating it as a +10 Form-oriented "boundary" is most appropriate, but it's an oversight.) I also didn't like the power boost associated with Art-Aligned Auras (I think a small bonus, perhaps during experimentation, would have conveyed the same flavor with less munchkinism). Directed vis, counting as two pawns in two separate Arts, was just weird - not a power boost, just weird.

Speaking of the Magic Realm - I found it just OK. Having regiones separated by the Twilight Void was fine, but felt more of a magic junkyard than a magic realm. I guess one could see the Twilight Void as the true magic realm (a point of view I found oddly lacking from the text), but its Form-aligned principalities make this explanation not work too well. I did like that the book allowed lots of leeway in interpreting what the Magic Realm is, and even vaguely remember an inside-joke about chambers, nails, and pots somewhere in there - I wonder if Michael de Vertil (sp.?) would be pleased.

I almost liked the three principles of magic. I have long thought of the Essential Nature idea as the defining one for Magic, but I think it was botched. RoPM says, for example, that to create a magical animal one should first think of how it is without magic, and this is its Essential Nature. Au contraire - I would have said that the thing's essential nature is what is revealed through Magic. Magic doesn't adorn your essential nature with bells and whistles - it reveals it in all its Might. In this way a brave person is not "transformed" to a Lion of Virtue; this is not a Transformation, but a Distillation, a Purification, a Revelation - shedding the dirt of mundanity to reveal the gem that lies underneath.

Likewise the second principle, that magic is ancient, is I think botched. I don't think it is conductive to say, as the book does, that the older a thing is the more magical it gets. Rather, it is that the most magical things are the most ancient ones - that Magic is often, though not always, in decline. I would have built the entire cosmology based on this single premise, identifying the Magic Realm as the timeless place where things are at their purest and most ancient forms, and the mundane realm as the domain of time, within which the perfections of Magic tend to erode. (Personally, I'd go further, defining three directions of erosion - the Infernal, which is towards nothingness, for God has not created Evil - evil is simply the Lack of good; the Faerie, which is the Unreal, the Imagination, the Dream, it is things-as-they-could-be, and therefore touches on things-as-most-perfect, which is Magic; and the Divine, which is things-as-they-cannot be, the Transcendent, pushing things not towards their Essential Nature but rather towards being better than themselves. But this is perhaps less suited to the official line.)

Finally, there is the principle of Occultism. I initially didn't like it, but seeing the mechanics of Acclimation drove the point home and it suddenly made lots of sense. Again, I blame the rhetoric. I think it could have been explained better. As I now understand it, the principle is that the most magical is most removed from the mundane; not that spreading word of the magical will make it less-so, which strikes me as a strange atavistic return to the dark days of the Realm of Reason.

And speaking of Acclimation - what are the rules for a character spending more than one season in the Magic Realm? Clearly in the Twilight Void there is no Acclimation, but what happens in cosms/whatever themselves? I was moved to imagine the Great Beasts of House Bjornaer strolling out of the Elysian Fields (?) to highly magical places through vestiges, spending months and years in the Twilight Void in between or choosing to Initiate a Bjornaer magus and stay longer in these more "mundane" places. I'm not sure the mechanics support such a state of affairs, however.

Vestiges, BTW, I find to be a grand idea. Very colorful and fun and interesting. But I very much dislike that they are partly immaterial, especially the strange idea that large ones are less so or that they are material only to beings aligned with the right Form. What benefit is there to any of this? Stepping into a grand magical tree to reach a forest in another realm is magical and grand; stepping into a half-substantive tree that is actually substantive to the nearby Treant-like creature is just weird.

I was a bit disappointed with RoPM. It had some great ideas in it, but I think it also botched the execution of some of them, which for me was a first in the spiffy ArM5 line. It's still very nice, and I'd recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat - but I feel a lot was missed.

Thanks for the thorough and critical review.

I've found the Elementals section near the back to be useful. I'd had my own ideas already and used them. The canon rules fitted well with these but also went further.

The rules for making magical creatures I have not bothered to read in detail yet.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book. :slight_smile: I still have had no opportunty to get my hands on it, but plan to in the near future. The thingy about too much mechanics that step over the flavour gets me a little bit back, but hey.

Cheers,

Xavi

Personally, I think RoP-Magic is one of the best books for 5th edition so far. It is revolutionary and breakthrough, giving us details and concepts that have never before bbeen presented in any edition. The Creature Creation mechanics are stellar. I have had a lot of fun with them. And it is full of flavor. I see Yair did not like the book as much as I did, and I can understand that. But I do disagree with many of his conclusions. It is very much my favorite 5th ed book so far.

LOVED the creatures and power creation thingie. This is something that , IMO, was really needed, and open up a whole new world of possibilities. Before, you couldn't do the "companion who can turn invisible" type.

And now, we have guidelines to create appropriate ghostly warders or familiars, which were before mostly left to GM fiat, which may sometimes prove tedious.

Loved also the enriched rules, and how the book tries to fit together all the various previous interpretations about the realm of magic.

And I gotta sleep.

Lots and lots of good flavor in there. Tasty. It gives several different options of "what's it like?" - and the crunchiness can always be tweaked.

And I actually like that it isn't littered with references to other sourcebooks. It stands quite steady on its own.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion about the book, but I wanted to correct one oversight in your review. RoP: Magic presents creature creation rules that are balanced to allow the creatures to become player characters at some point. The rules specifically allow the storyguide to ignore the balancing aspects to create a quick-and-dirty creature that is intended to be an adversary without balancing the aspects of the creature. I do this kind of thing all the time as a storyguide. If you have a one-shot NPC, you don't need to pick every single Virtue and Flaw for the character, only the ones that will play a role in the story. If the character becomes important, you can flesh her out more fully later in the saga. RoP: Magic allows for the same idea.

PS. I didn't write the rules for character creation, I only used them to create some example creatures. For the record, YR7 said he liked two of my sections and thought the rules I wrote for one were "just weird." I'm cool with weird. Some of my best friends are weird. :wink:

I don't have HoH:MC in front of me, but if you want to play a Great Beast in the game, I'd suggest you design it as a Magic Animal. I think a Transformed Animal is going to be too weak for the role that a Great Beast generally serves.

I guess how you treat it depends on whether or not you see the Void as in the Realm or outside of it... :slight_smile: I'd simply give it the standard Magic Realm aura of 10.

Hmm, like whatever is affected by the magic is its Essential Nature? That doesn't seem that different to me, though it's coming at it from another direction. But I don't see Magic as adorning the essential nature of the character with extraneous aspects, rather it enhances it, making that part of it more important. I don't think a brave person would be transformed into a lion through magic in this way-- he would become a better person instead, probably becoming even braver-- but take a mundane animal: a lion is brave, and noble, and feline, and a strong leader. A magic lion is all of those things, but even more so. Its powers and its magical nature support those traits. Its magical weaknesses affect other aspects of its being, things that being diminished make those essential traits more prominent. Through exposure to magic, its nature is refined. Magic improves upon what the creature already is at its most basic level.

Would it mesh with your ideas better if it said that the older a magical thing gets, the more magical it becomes? For example, ancient dragons usually have more Might than young dragons. However, it should still be possible that the power of magic is waxing, and that more powerful creatures are being born over time.

I suggest a magic character doesn't suffer any Acclimation if it spends a year in the Magic Realm. If the character splits its time between there and somewhere else, I'd treat it as a Level 10 aura.

Sure they do. (That's a great image!) I'd imagine these are probably Aspects of the Great Beasts who remain behind in the Twilight Void, and these creatures probably wouldn't stay around longer than a season or two lest they begin to lose their connection to Magic.

I imagine that visitors to a place in the Realm are not really part of it, and so cannot change it without using magic. For example, a traveler cannot pull fruit off of the tree, but the treelike guardian of the place can.

If these places are moments of history, it seems to require magic to overcome the sort of temporal stasis that presumably created them. For a cosm, maybe the visitor cannot change the place without changing the thing with which the place is associated? I'm not sure what insulae proponents would say; maybe it's because the non-aligned traveler isn't really there or something like that.

Hi,

Been away from these forums for some time, as we're trying other rpgs these days, but I'm planning to start up with Ars Magica again soon. :slight_smile:

I loved RoP: Magic, but one thing really bugged me, and that's the self-contradiction the book makes by saying Place Spirits can also be Daimons, and most powerful ones are (with the examples in the book). Daimons make their home in the Magic Realms, and Place Spirits are defines by making their home in our world, right? And one can't say that the spirit in our world is only one Aspect of a Daimon, since Aspects can't regenerate their Might. It seems the book can't agree with itself on this. And I wanted to use the Rhinefalls as a focus for my next campaign. :frowning:

Eirik

It's still a great book. The mechanics aren't awful, either - just not my cup of tea.

While I miss some references, I also was dismayed that more integration wasn't made with the past lore. Saying rules for Ascension are to be found in TMRE is fine; not saying how the different rules for their advancement (in RoPM and TMRE) mesh together is not.

There was a big design shift in D&D 4e from the previous, 3.x, edition. In 3e, monsters are designed essentially like RoPM does - through a detailed system that isn't well-balanced for PCs, but is consistent and allows for PCs with minor alterations. In 4e, monsters are designed to serve the story first and foremost, with the balancing done in terms of how they affect the plot and adventure.

I agree with this philosophy. I see most magical creatures as backdrop. The system should be built primarily to aid the storyguide to easily and quickly create fun and interesting NPCs, and the balancing mechanics in it should reflect that. They should NOT be cast aside to allow for creating NPCs, they should SUPPORT creating NPCs. Support for creating PCs should be the non-default option, the one less supported by the balancing system and left more vague.

A good example of this is the Fortifications rules from Covenants. The system of Hooks and Boons is there to support the story. It is not designed from the PCs' prespective, but rather from the storyguide's presepective; from the story-presepective, rather than the in-game mechanics prespective.

Yes, it is only a slight change of prespetive on the subject, not a drastically different take. I like your description, much more than I liked the wording used in RoPM.

No, that isn't meshing better. It even goes against the idea of the unchange brought about by immortality; I just don't think it's cool to think that things get more magical simply by aging. It might be a consequence of the rules for characters, but generally I don't think it's just very cool for magic things in general. A temple of Mercury left forgotten for centuries should not be more magical than it were when it was active, IMHO.

Hmm. That would deprive the Twilight Void of its redeeming quality as the place to which high-Might beings escape in order to avoid Acclimation. I kinda like that image, so I prefer to keep Acclimation in the Magic Realm. My initial thought was to treat periods within it as if the character had half the Might, but this makes it too effective (preventing Acclimation up to Magic Might 100).

I'd prefer not to make them Daimons, but otherwise agree. I'm not sure how well the rules support the transition into the magical realm from the mundane world (highly magical auras), however.

That's an interesting image. It's nice for some cosms, I suppose, but I wouldn't want to impose it generally. Also, the vestiges are generally only small parts of an otherwise solid cosm, as I understand the idea. So I don't think this - interesting - image justifies the illusionary nature of vestiges.

It bothered me too, but I've decided that the book makes a distinction between the spirit of a place and the place itself. So no, a spirit of a place is not defined by making their home in our world. Rather, it asserts dominion over a part of our world, imbuing it with its essence. In principle, one can imagine several Presence powers, a single spirit-of-place existing in several different places.

I wasn't happy with this distinction, until I thought of the Magical Realm as the timeless realm of pure being. From the point of view of eternity, the place "always" exists in its perfect form. The Aspect , and the place in our world, is then but a temporal shadow of this more perfect existence in the Magic Realm. Perhaps all places are.

But the Aspect of a Daimon can't regenerate Might. How then, can for example the Rhinefalls be an aspect of the Daimon in the Magic Realm? The Rhinefalls spirit was trapped there ages ago by dwarves and giants, but how can they trap a Daimon in our world? :question:

Eirik

This, for me, falls under the more general question - how could the (faerie?) gods have trapped the primordial titans in the titanomachi? As beings of immense power, the powerful titans were certainly denziens of the Magic Realm. I think the answer must be that this is possible within the realm of time, within Mythic Europe. The magical spirits cannot be bound in the Magic Realm, as it is timeless.

The scenario I imagined was that the legend of the Rhinefalls is part of a dim recollection of the Titanomachi, when the great magical spirits of places were shattered into fragments (a process not mentioned in RoPM, but very much central in GotF) and bound to serve the faeries. Apparently, it is within the power of Faerie to these sort of things.

I seem to remember giving a possible answer to this in another thread. Specifically: https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/daimons-and-spirits-of-place/3109/1

The Aspect is trapped because the Daimon could not re-manifest an Aspect there soon enough to prevent the giants and dwarfs from taking over the site. So it has to remain on earth until another solution presents itself...such as the characters coming by.

You might allow it to be possible for an Aspect to regain Might using vis, even if it doesn't naturally regenerate. So the trapped Aspect consumes the vis of the Rhinesfals to replenish its Might as per RoP:M.

Mark

But how would this work with other Daimonic place spirits, like the examples in RoP: Magic? Mount Etna, for example, isn't trapped by anything, as far as I remember.

Eirik

The answer to the daimon thing is easy: Faerie and magical realms are the same. Only people with too much time in their hands (like OoH nerds) try to find a differnece between them. Both fae and magical creatures exist in a world of ideas. They might have worldly incantations as well. What happens to their worldy incantation has consequences fdo5r the theoretical, ideal aspect of it existing in the SUYpernatural realm of magic/faerie. The impact might not be 100% the same, so you can kill a dragon and still find him in a travel around the magic realm. His importance will be much lower for the magic realm as a whole (reduced might powers and influence) than when he was alive, though.

The spirit of the rhinefalls would be trapped in a magical prison in the magic realm, probably being unable to interact with other denizens of the magic realm until he is freed in the mundane realm.

Quite easy explanation and falls into the handwave mechanics when it comes to game philosophy. IMO it works quite OK.

Cheers,

Xavi

Then I don't see what the problem is. The Aspect can maintain itself indefinitely, and is to all intents and purposes, a normal spirit. The only difference is that it does not regenerate Might naturally. When the Might drops too low, and can't be replenished with a vis-snack, then the Daimon dissolves it and creates a new one.

There is an important game consideration here: a genius loci will always exist: even if your PCs decide to slay it, they will have only killed that Aspect. Spirits of Places are strong Magic Realm reflections of magically important places in the mundane world, and so the Daimon aspect is an important one.

Mark

Yes, that's a good idea, actually. The PC's might slay the Aspect, which gives them a time window of one day or so to do their business at the site (maybe to harvest the vis). Basically, they "unseat" the spirit from the place, but it will be back, manifesting itself at the site.
I really like the idea of the players being in an are when suddenly the the spirit begins to manifest around them, taking control of everything. :smiling_imp:

By the way, the Daimon, does it live in the Magic Realm or the Twilight Void? My idea is also that the spirit's place in the Magic Realm is identical, or even a grander version of, the place it's aspect inhabits in our world, only the place in our world is inhabited by an aspect. So the Rhinefalls is the focus of a boundary in the Magic Realms, but it might it might be a huge, epic waterfall in a very strong Aquam Boundary. Nice :slight_smile:

Eirik